The Late Late Toy Show: Everything you need to know

Don your jingliest, jangliest elf hat. It’s going to be a jungly Late Late Toy Show 2021

Ryan Tubridy and a tribe of young performers and toy testers Charley Bolster, Layla Ibegu, Sarah Doyle, Nothabo Siziba, Zach Culleton and Kate Butler prepare to go wild for the biggest night on the TV calendar. Photograph: Andres Poveda

Ryan Tubridy and a tribe of young performers and toy testers Charley Bolster, Layla Ibegu, Sarah Doyle, Nothabo Siziba, Zach Culleton and Kate Butler prepare to go wild for the biggest night on the TV calendar. Photograph: Andres Poveda


Last year’s Late Late Toy Show brought a spark of joy to the bleak midwinter. We are still obviously living through interesting times but the atmosphere going into the 2021 event is very different. Speaking on Radio One during the week, host Ryan Tubridy promised the 2021 Toy Show would be “crazy”.

“Last year there was a sort of darkness in the air, and yet you had to make the colour shine through,” he told listeners. “This year, the darkness isn’t as pronounced. If you’re wondering where it’s going to go, I think it is post-war fun and games and kind of crazy.”

So belt up and strap on your jingliest, jangliest elf hat as we bring you the ultimate need to know guide to the 2021 Toy Show.

When is it on?

The Toy Show starts on RTÉ One at 9.35pm and runs until 11.55pm. It will be broadcast worldwide on the RTÉ Player on desktop and app. Amanda Coogan, Aisling Dragoi and Sarah Jane O’Regan will present The Late Late Toy Show live with Irish Sign Language (ISL) on the RTÉ News channel and RTÉ Player. The broadcast can also be watched on catch-up on the RTÉ Player.

What’s the theme?

After riffing on the works of Roald Dahl in 2020, and Frozen and The Greatest Showman in previous years, on this occasion the Toy Show will be a love letter to Disney’s the Lion King. The mane event will see Tubridy interacting with a set designed by Marcella Power of RTÉ’s costume and make-up departments. He’ll be putting the “rrrrr” in RTÉ.

And even if you’re lukewarm about anthropomorphic Disney morality plays, just be relieved they decided to go with Lion King rather than Tiger King. Although, Ryan Tubridy in a hillbilly mullet singing country songs would undoubtedly make for a Reeling In The Years moment.

The Lion King wasn’t “just a theme” said the host. “Everyone has been locked up for a long time and that’s why we need to head out into the wild and join our friends in The Lion King. This isn’t just a theme; it is a movement,” he explained.

Tubridy added: “Every child can leave the house and leave the room and leave the kitchen and roam free in the jungle of their families because they are the boss tonight. So, it is the future, it is wild, and it is beautiful. Join us in the jungle”.

So…The Purge but with children doing the terrorising?

Will there be singing and dancing?

The 2020 Toy Show began with a number scored to Bjork’s Oh So Quiet, which started at the Royal Irish Academy and then moved to Studio Four in Montrose. It featured children dressed as frogs and Ryan Tubridy as a fox.

This year, the Toy Show aims to raise the ante with two separate song-and-dance performances. Will songs from the Lion King appear? Almost certainly yes, though hopefully the evening will not include Tubridy singing Circle of Life as he holds a Playstation 5 over his head. It’s been a crazy years, however, so you never know.

Will there be special guests?

Ed Sheeran famously popped around for a chat and a strum in 2014. Last year, meanwhile, Dermot Kennedy turned up to sing with a fan while The Edge and Gary Barlow joined remotely (not at the same time, tragically). With guests of that calibre to its name, there seems to be no limit to the Toy Show’s pulling power. So in 2021, who is to say who they have lined up? That Garth Brooks-Billie Eilish duet you’ve always hoped for may not be as far away as you think.

Tell us about the set?

As the theme is “Lion King”, expect a jungle and savannah look. RTÉ says the studio will “dramatically create nature at its best”. So lots of green and a few friendly fronds – and presumably Ryan Tubridy in the middle dressed as a lion. There will be a studio audience of 50.

What about the toys?

Toy testers will be aged four upwards. As for the actual toys, RTÉ has indicated Fidget spinners, Pop-its and a Labradoodle “called Moji” are likely to feature. Fidget spinners, we’re all familiar with. Pop-its meanwhile are described as a “brightly coloured silicone tray with pokable bubbles, similar to bubble wrap”. A Labradoodle is an actual breed of dog – so it will be revealing to see how he or she fits in.

When did it begin?

The first Toy Show was in 1975, when it was a half hour segment presented by Gay Byrne to help parents stumped as to what to buy their kids for Christmas. It has grown and grown and is now one of the biggest dates in Irish broadcasting, with 1.5 million tuning in live in 2020 – a staggering 59 per cent audience share.